What are vessel documentation endorsements?

An endorsement determines the activities a vessel can lawfully engage in without additional permission from the USCG. It is important for vessel owners to choose an endorsement that fits their needs in order to avoid any potential fine or other enforcement action against them. Depending on the type of endorsement chosen, it may require specific labor qualifications and/or certification as well as licensing fees or proof of insurance before it is granted.

“Recreational” is the most common endorsement. This is for vessels that are to be used for fun with friends, family, and so forth. Note: all vessels can be used for recreation, but vessels with this endorsement can only be used for recreation.

The “Fishery” endorsement entitles vessels to be used for commercial fishing operations on the navigable waters of the United States and in the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

The “Coastwise” endorsement entitles vessels to be used for transporting merchandise and/or people on those same waters. The “Registry” endorsement is for foreign trade.

Apply for initial vessel documentation and choose an endorsement here.

Vessel owners who wish to change their endorsement can do so. Utilize this “Change of Endorsement/Trade Indicator” form.

The law describes the concept of an “Endorsement” in greater detail here.